Book Review: Simply Murder: The Battle of Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862


by Chris Mackowski and Kristopher D. White

El Dorado Hills, Ca.: Savas Beatie, 2012. Pp. viii, 158. Illus., maps, notes, appends. $16.95 paper. ISBN: 1611211468

Burnside's Disaster at Fredericksburg

Part of Savas Beatie’s ‘Emerging Civil War Series,’ Simply Murder is a guide to the Battle of Fredericksburg. As with the other books in the series, it provides a tour guide, taking the reader to all of the key locations on the National Battlefield.

Providing more than simply a tour guide, Mackowski and White sketch out a brief campaign history, and basic biographies of the important generals involved. Highlights of the battle chapters include those comprising the fight in the Slaughter Pen, and of course Marye’s Heights. For such a short book, there are quite a few firsthand accounts to liven up the text. The historical controversies of the battle are well covered, and as with other books in the series, for those who want a deeper dive into the battle, the important modern accounts are listed in an appendix. Some may be surprised at the authors’ harsh criticism of Stonewall Jackson, and their defense of A.P. Hill, who they believe was unfairly slandered by Lost Cause aficionados for his part in the battle. They also seek to disabuse the reader of the belief that the attack on Marye’s Heights was a useless slaughter, pointing out that it was designed to hold Longstreet’s Corps on the Heights while the main attack occurred on the Union left. Burnside thus is exonerated for ordering a foolish attack that wasted Union lives.

Other appendices cover the National Cemetery at Fredericksburg, the town’s pre-war history, the experience of civilians in the battle, the role of slaves in the battle, and the place of the Battle of Fredericksburg in American memory. All in all, it is a fine example in the series, and one could do worse than follow the path it inscribes for visiting the battlefield of Fredericksburg.




Note: Simply Murder is also available in audio- and e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: Alexander Stavropoulos   

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